CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s supposed to be the highlight of their time in college.
But seniors at Columbia College are learning commencement is canceled.
CBS 2’s Steven Graves talked to students who are fighting to change that.
For first-generation Columbia College senior Hinda Akel, commencement meant more than just walking across a stage.
“For me, it’s a moment of achievement and success. It’s well-deserved,” Akel said.
It’s the same for Mahnoor Syed, who was expected to receive two degrees.
“I’ve been going 18 to 23 credits per semester. So this was a moment me and my family were really looking closely into,” Syed said.
The two now feeling blindsided and devastated after the college’s president sent a letter saying commencement is canceled amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Where the problem comes in: there’s no postponement date.
“We’re asking whether it’s a couple months or a year from now. All we want is for our ceremony to be postponed,” Syed said.
Seniors and their families have banned together with an online petition that has racked up almost 4,000 signatures.
The coronavirus has prompted colleges all over the country to make adjustments.
Locally, Loyola University Chicago, a much bigger school in student population compared to Columbia College, has pushed back its ceremony with confirmed dates in August.
On Tuesday, CBS 2 posed many questions to Columbia College. A spokesperson said it took weeks to evaluate the situation, which got more serious when a case of COVID-19 was confirmed on campus.
Columbia said the commencement cancellation is in line with federal guidelines to avoid crowds and the possible spread of the virus.
Another factor being that the venue, the Auditorium Theatre, is also closed due to cornavirus concerns. Still, the college has no plans to postpone the event, even after seeing the petition.
Right now, the college plans to honor 2020 graduates in some way, but no details were given. The school plans to reimburse students for commencements costs, around $175.
In a statement, Columbia College said, in part: “this was a difficult decision for the college, but we feel we are acting responsibly for the safety, health and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and their families.”
Students will still get their diplomas.